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IMPACT ON SCHOOLS: Hartlepool schools praised for pandemic response

Hartlepool Council Children’s Services Committee this week heard how schools in the town faced possibly their most “difficult year” due to the impact of the pandemic.

Council chiefs said although in June and July increasing numbers of children were required to isolate, they were confident this was from “community transmission” and not “school transmission”.

They added there had been no outbreaks within any Hartlepool schools over the past term.

Sally Robinson, council director of children’s and joint commissioning services, praised the work of everyone involved at the schools.

She said: “It has been probably one of the most difficult years, if not the most difficult year that our schools have managed.

“They have done this in the face of criticism, pressure and challenges.

“It shows the resilience and the spirit of the children of Hartlepool in the way that they have coped with the demands.”

Mark Tilling, headteacher at High Tunstall College of Science, hailed the “first class” support from the council during the pandemic, and complimented the work of both staff and students in difficult circumstances.

He said: “It has been a struggle, the last few weeks have been a real struggle.

“We certainly at High Tunstall, have not seen a massive increase in numbers [of Covid-19 cases] but we have seen a massive increase in close contacts and those close contacts then lead to self-isolations.

“We can’t knock the young people, my experience from the start is they have been absolutely brilliant, they have worked so hard.”

He added one of the biggest challenges had been staff isolating, with at one point around one fifth of staff at his school impacted.

Amanda Whitehead, council assistant director for education,  supported how this had been a challenge, but said they were “incredibly proud” of how schools managed over the past 18 months.

She said: “What we do know is that certainly over the last term there have been no outbreaks within any of our schools.

“What that means is any Covid infection rates have not resulted from transmission from within any Hartlepool schools, they’ve come from outside in the community.”

She added attendance rates within schools in the borough had remained “in line, if not above” the national average.

Written by Nic Marko, Local Democracy Reporter

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